If Jim Mickle and Nick Damici continue to work together for the rest of their days then I, for one, won’t be complaining. From Mulberry Street to Stake Land to their remake of We Are What We Are (the only one I have yet to see, despite the great reviews), they have consistently proven themselves to be a winning combination.
Cold In July is all about one fateful night that leads to Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) shooting dead an intruder in his home. It turns out that the intruder had a recently-paroled father (Russel, played by Sam Shepard), and he doesn’t take too kindly to the fact that someone killed his son. He decides to react by threatening Richard and his family. After seeking police protection, and having one majorly close call, Richard heads back to the station to wrap things up. And that’s when things start to twist and turn, as he spies a “wanted” poster for the man that he killed. Except . . . . . . . it’s not the man that he killed. So who was buried? And will Richard be able to convince Russell that he hasn’t killed his son?
Based on a novel by Joe R. Lansdale, this is a movie that should please all fans of modern noir. It’s entertaining from start to finish, full of tense moments, and mixes in some little bits of humour just when it’s needed most. The characters may change drastically throughout the movie, but every moment of change is motivated by the major plot points.
The acting from all concerned is fantastic, with Michael C. Hall putting in some of his best work (which is saying something) as the peace-loving man desperate to protect his family. Shepard is suitably menacing, even as the film starts to move away from the opening premise. Damici, who co-wrote the script with Mickle, also lands himself a decent role, playing a local law enforcement officer who tries to help Richard shake off his apparent confusion. Vinessa Shaw does well, despite being sidelined for the second half of the movie, Wyatt Russell is just fine in his small role, and then there’s Don Johnson. Just as the movie needs a shot in the arm, Johnson swaggers in and pretty much steals any scene that he’s in. It’s a hugely entertaining performance, and some people may say that it belongs in an entirely different movie, but it works perfectly, juxtaposed nicely alongside the more serious turns from Hall and Shepard. The film touches on some very dark subject matter, and Johnson gives viewers a temporary reprieve from the grim atmosphere.
Unlike some people, I didn’t have faith in Mickle and Damici from the start of their careers. Silly me. They’re now, in the eyes of many, four for four. Cold In July shows that they don’t have to restrict themselves to only working within the horror genre. Of course, many fans, including myself, will hope that they don’t break free and decide never to return, but it’s great to see them stretching their legs and producing yet another accomplished slice of cinema.
If you haven’t guessed by this point, I recommend this highly. And I already can’t wait for whatever the two men give us next.
DIRECTOR: JIM MICKLE
WRITER: NICK DAMICI, JIM MICKLE (BASED ON A NOVEL BY JOE R. LANSDALE)
STARS: MICHAEL C. HALL, SAM SHEPARD, DON JOHNSON, NICK DAMICI, VINESSA SHAW, WYATT RUSSELL
RUNTIME: 109 MINS APPROX